ReviewStage

‘The Old Man and The Old Moon’: An Old Tale Told for Those Young at Heart

Mary Olsen ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Ryan Melia, Curtis Gillen, Ben Ferguson, Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler, Arya Shahi and Alex Falberg in The Old Man and The Old Moon. Photo Credit: Liz Lauren/ArtsEmerson.
Ryan Melia, Curtis Gillen, Ben Ferguson, Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler, Arya Shahi and Alex Falberg in The Old Man and The Old Moon. Photo Credit: Liz Lauren/ArtsEmerson.

What happens when one combines the unbridled imagination of a young boy and a Carnegie Melon theatre education? One gets the PigPen Theatre Company’s  production of The Old Man and the Old Moon. This show calls upon the imagination of the audience to follow a folktale about how the moon got its phases. PigPen is unique in its nature because they use only found materials for their staging, but it’s like they always say, one man’s trash is another theatre company’s entire set.

The set resembled a pier with wood plank levels and plenty of posts to swing from and hang screens for shadow puppetry between.  This was very apropos considering the play largely takes place either on a boat or at a pier.  Hanging from the fly space were several lights and random objects, including bottles, lamps, and even a fire alarm.  Under one of the pier platforms there were several different colored bottles, and at one point of the show light came from under the platform, casting a dazzling display of color on the stage.  At the foot of the stage were floodlights under wire cages that were used as footlights and seating for the characters.  The entire set was eclectic to say the least, with several props, lighting, and sound effects that Pinterest users would flip for.

To say the members of PigPen are amiable is a complete understatement.  Before they even came out on stage, one could read all about each actor in the program: their nicknames, favorite phase of the moon, least favorite breakfast cereal, etc.  As the actors filtered onto the stage one by one, they smiled and looked around, greeting and waving to the audience (who were still settling into their seats).  They then began to play the instruments they brought onstage with them.

Matt Nuernberger, Ryan Melia and Curtis Gillen in The Old Man and The Old Moon. Photo Credit: Liz Lauren/ArtsEmerson.
Matt Nuernberger, Ryan Melia and Curtis Gillen in The Old Man and The Old Moon. Photo Credit: Liz Lauren/ArtsEmerson.

As their first song ended and the houselights came down, they began their curtain speech by profusely thanking the audience for being there. Each character they took on through the show had its own personality and charm that shone through despite the lack of costume changes. Their performance was physically funny and especially touching.

The members of PigPen are equal parts actors and musicians, as demonstrated by their music in the show and the success of their indie folk album Bremen (named #10 album of the year by Huffington Post in the 2012 Grammy Preview).  The actors played their instruments live onstage, and though not all of the songs were written specifically for the show, they fit into their respective scenes flawlessly.  Their music can be found on Spotify, or one can find them in concert across the country.

The Old Man and the Old Moon is a show that truly calls back to childhood memories of using whatever odds and ends one could find to create a game or story with friends.  The members of PigPen Theatre Company have created a piece of theatre that awakes a child-like wonder in audience members of all ages through puppets, sword fights with umbrellas, a boat made from a sheet, and a set that any kid would love to have as a treehouse.  The show was a magical journey through a folktale about an Old Man and his duty to his wife that changed how the moon goes through her phases today.

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